Ohio Track in Joint Venture With Hard Rock

Northfield Park near Cleveland would be site of gaming facility if law is upheld.

A Cleveland, Ohio-area racetrack has partnered with a casino company to develop a gaming facility with video lottery terminals and related entertainment offerings.

Northfield Park, a harness track that offers more than 200 live racing days a year, entered into an agreement with Hard Rock International, the two parties said April 5. Hard Rock said it entered into a “joint venture and related agreements to acquire equity in, and to develop” a gaming and entertainment facility at the track located south of Cleveland.

Hard Rock said the proposed project hinges on “successful resolution” of litigation challenging the 2011 law authorizing racetrack VLTs in Ohio. Oral arguments in the case were scheduled for April 5.

The $275 million development would include the usual Hard Rock-branded amenities, officials said.

“We are thrilled to be working with Milstein Entertainment and the Northfield Park team on this project,” Hard Rock International chairman Jim Allen said. “We look forward to bringing the renowned Hard Rock brand to Northfield Park, as the Hard Rock Gaming and Entertainment Facility would be a state-of-the-art venue, providing world-class entertainment experiences that are unique to the region to complement the local community and its surroundings.”

Northfield Park is privately owned. The track is open year-round for multi-breed full-card simulcasts along with its live racing program.

“Being from Northeast Ohio, I take great pride in the region and the partners we choose to bring here,” said Brock Milstein, chairman and chief executive officer of Northfield Park and Milstein Entertainment. “Given the impressive history of the Hard Rock brand and its reputation for developing fun and unique experiences around the world, we couldn’t have chosen a better global brand to develop and operate this venue.”

Hard Rock operates two Seminole casinos in Florida and has hotel and casino properties in Las Vegas, Nev.; Biloxi, Miss.; and Macau in Asia.

Though the Northfield Park deal is a joint venture on the gaming side, other Ohio racetracks have been sold outright to casino companies in recent years.

On the Thoroughbred side, Beulah Park is owned by Penn National Gaming Inc., River Downs was purchased by Pinnacle Entertainment, and Thistledown is owned by Caesars Entertainment.

On the Standardbred side, PNGI owns Raceway Park and MTR Gaming Group owns Scioto Downs. A partnership of Churchill Downs Inc. and Delaware North Companies has a pending agreement to purchase the racing licenses of Lebanon Raceway so it can build a new racetrack with a VLT casino.